Football: Debts restructured, Warriors FC seeking to return to Singapore Premier League next year

SINGAPORE – Nine-time champions Warriors FC, who were instructed to sit out the 2020 Singapore Premier League (SPL) season because of accumulated debts, are seeking to return to the league next year.

The Straits Times understands that the club has written to the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) seeking a meeting with its executive committee, where it hopes to present its proposal for the club’s reinstatement.

It is understood the Warriors’ management committee (MC) are claiming they have consolidated the club’s financial position and restructured its outstanding debts, and also want to show the FAS how it plans to be financially sustainable.

The club also plans to address the issue of its new management team.

Former club general manager Paul Poh has resigned from his post. The FAS had asked the Warriors to relieve him from his duties in August last year.

Former chairman Philip Lam remains on the club MC, but it is understood retired army brigadier-general and former chairman Lam Shiu Tong, who was an adviser to the club, is standing in as acting chair instead.

Last December, after two months of correspondence, the FAS had instructed the Warriors to sit out the current season, citing the club’s debts to various authorities and their players’ unpaid salaries, which allegedly amounted to almost $850,000, as the reason.

A source tells ST that a “significant portion” of the debts have been repaid, and that the club has also reached agreements with the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board and Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, as well as scheduled all remaining salaries owed to players.

The club used its surpluses from its Singapore Pools outlet, along with contributions from MC members, to pay off this portion of the debt.

The Warriors were originally known as Singapore Armed Forces Football Club and acted under the purview of the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).

They are the most successful Singapore football club of the professional era, and the only one to compete in the Asian Champions League.

A name change to Warriors FC in 2013 preceded Mindef ceding control of the club in January 2017 – when Lam took over the reins – reportedly to allow an unnamed incoming private sponsor more influence in the running of the club.

Barely 18 months later, trouble started brewing. ST reported in October 2018 that the club struggled to pay its staff on time, leading to the Ministry of Manpower barring the club from foreign hires.

In July last year, with the late salary payouts continuing, the FAS said it was “gravely concerned” with how financial subsidies provided to the club had been administered. It also revealed it had been paying the club employees’ monthly CPF contributions directly to the CPF Board since March.

In November last year, the Warriors were charged with 107 counts of not paying their employees’ salaries as far back as July, with arrears amounting to over $350,000. A month later, the club announced it had paid $150,000 of that amount, through loans from its MC members.

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